Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Monday – Sunday 0800 – midnight
- No after hours on-call coverage
- Neuro, MRI-Angio, Spine, Musculoskeletal, MRI-Arthrograms, Abdomen, Pelvic, Thoracic MRI
- MRI Breast – Coming Soon
QCH Wait Times for MRI Services
Same day to 6 weeks depending on urgency
(90th percentile wait time is same day to 14 weeks)
- Most exams require no special preparation
- Cases requiring Gadolinuim IV injections require recent creatinine
- All MRI exams need to complete an MRI screening form prior to test being booked
- Abdomen and pelvic MRI require fasting 4 hrs prior to test
What to Expect
- On the day of your exam, please arrive on time. In order to allow time for registration and processing of paperwork, the appointment time you are given is 30 minutes prior to your actual appointment.
- You must check in and register with our clerical staff. A valid Ontario Health Card is required.
- If you have had X-rays or scans (or any exams on compact discs) to diagnose this same or similar problem at another facility, please make sure you bring them with you. These films or scans will be kept for reporting and then mailed back to the hospital of origin.
- Note that emergency patients or equipment failures may result in a delay or rescheduling of your appointment.
- You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and remove any jewelry and metallic objects.
- At this time, you can take any medication that was prescribed by your Physician. If you have a condition that requires you to take medication on a regular basis, you should keep to your regular medication schedule.
- Lockers are provided for secure lock up of your clothing and valuables.
- When it is time for your examination, a Technologist will escort you to the scan room.
- Some examinations of the abdomen require special preparation; your Physician will give you details specific to your exam.
About the Procedure
- The Technologist will go over the MRI screening form with you, explain the procedure and answer any questions that you might have.
- You will be provided with headphones to help reduce the loud humming and thumping sounds which are produced during the scanner's operation. You will then be escorted into the scan room.
- The scan room has a large doughnut-shaped magnet with a padded table that moves you into the centre of the machine once you are positioned. Whether or not you go into the machine head first or feet first, as well as how far in you go, is determined by the type of exam being performed. In some cases a special piece of equipment called a surface coil, which is like a radio antenna, is placed on or wrapped around the body part that is being imaged.
- The scanner is equipped with an emergency assistance alarm button, a two-way intercom for communication with the Technologist .
- It is very important that you remain relaxed and try not to move during the scan. Even very slight movement of the part being scanned can cause distorted images that will have to be repeated. For some exams you may be asked to hold your breath for 10-30 seconds as the pictures are taken.
Length of Scan
- The exam consists of several different scans that vary in length and the type of sound they produce.
- Most exams take 30 to 45 minutes, but there are a few that take one to two hours. Some exams may also require the injection of a contrast agent called Gadolinium. This contrast agent is a colorless fluid, which is injected into a vein in your arm. This agent is not known to be harmful to the kidneys or other organs in people with normal kidney function. There is an extremely rare incidence of reactions being serious or fatal to this agent. If you have ever had a reaction to MRI contrast previously or your kidneys are not functioning normally, you must inform the technologist.
- The contrast agent is very safe in persons with normal kidney function; its purpose is to make details in the MRI images clearer and is standard for some types of examinations.
- If you require a contrast injection, the Technologist will take you out of the scanner and inject it into a vein in your arm. The Technologist will then return you to your original position in the scanner.
- Since we need the images before and after the injection to match, it is important that you do not move while the contrast medium is being administered.
- Some examinations of the abdomen require special preparation; your Physician will give you details specific to your exam.
- Each MRI scan is individualized and tailored to each patient's needs. If you have had an MRI scan before, do not be concerned if this one is longer or shorter.
After the Exam
- You will feel no after-effects upon completion of the study and may resume normal activity.
- It is recommended that you have someone accompany you if you will be taking medication for claustrophobia as you may feel groggy for an extended period of time and you will not be permitted to drive.
- After the exam, the Radiologist and Technologist will review the images to ensure diagnostic quality. If the quality is acceptable, you can go home. If more images are needed, they will usually be taken right away.
- Your scan will be reviewed by a Radiologist.
- The MRI report will be sent to your Physician, who will schedule an appointment to discuss the results with you.
Booking MRI Appointments
In order to provide effective and efficient MRI services and enable the appropriate triage and prioritization of requests, please follow these guidelines when booking appointments:
- All MRI requests require a fully completed Request for MRI Examination form. A completed request must bear the legible printed and written signature of the requesting Physician and contact number (pager).
- All MRI requests must include a completed MRI Patient Screening Information form. It is imperative that the Patient Screening form be signed by the patient and/or delegate. Critical information required on the screening form includes:
- Specific information relative to surgically implanted or interventional devices, such as details regarding type and model number of a heart valve replacement and the date of surgery.
- Operative notes, if available, help determine the patient’s suitability for an MRI exam.
- Orbital X-rays are required if the patient answers yes to questions regarding any metal EVER in their eye. Orbital X-ray reports must be attached to the requisition form.
- Some patients with aneurysm clips are not able to have an MRI. Please submit operative notes for our radiologist to review.
- Please prescribe sedation for a claustrophobic patient if required, so they come prepared and are able to complete their MRI procedure. If sedation is to be prescribed, inform the patient that another adult must accompany them to their MRI appointment or to make arrangements for transportation to and from the MRI department.
- If you need help with translation please inform the booking staff so arrangements can be made, before your exam date. Time will not allow us to arrange it on the day of the appointment.
- All MR Breast Imaging requests require the completion of an MR Breast Imaging questionnaire in addition to the Request for MRI Examination, any previous outside imaging films and reports, and MRI Screening Information forms.
Not following the directions above may result in delay of the imaging request. Incomplete requests and/or Patient Screening forms will be returned to the originator.
MRI Exam Policies
No adverse effects have been demonstrated in pregnant women or the fetus, but the FDA guidelines suggest that MRI be used during pregnancy only when there are clear medical indications and it offers a clear advantage over other imaging modalities with known risks or hazards.
Patients in their first trimester should not be scanned unless there are clear medical indications to choose MRI over other imaging modalities.
Requests for MRI within six weeks of surgery must be approved by the radiologist prior to booking of appointment. To ensure compatibility, any implanted devices must be listed on the Screening form including the type and model, if applicable.
Patients who undergo an MRI that requires an injection of Gadolinium should discard breast milk for 24 hours after the procedure.
Requests for MRI within six weeks of surgery must be approved by the Radiologist prior to booking of appointment. To ensure compatibility, any implanted devices must be listed on the Screening Form including the type and model, if applicable.
Prior to booking an MRI examination, please ensure that the MRI Patient Screening Information form is completely filled out and sent to the MRI Department.
The following lists offer guidelines for contraindicated and MRI-compatible devices. If you require more information, please call the MRI staff at 613-721-4711, option 1 for MRI.
Contraindicated Objects/Implanted Devices
- cardiac pacemaker
- implanted cardiac defibrillator
- any type of implanted biostimulator
- any type of internal electrode(s), including pacing wires and cochlear implants
- implanted insulin pump
- Swan-Ganz catheter
- any type of electronic, mechanical or magnetic implant
- implanted drug infusion device
- metallic foreign body in the eye (if suspected, please have plain orbit X-rays taken prior to the procedure)
- any type of intravascular coil, filter, stent (some are compatible, check with MRI suite)
- ear implants (some are compatible, check with MRI suite)
- aneurysm clips (some are compatible, please submit operative notes for review by radiologist or a previous post-clipping MRI report)
- shrapnel or bullets (may not be contraindicated, check with MRI suite)
- medication patches
- eye surgeries (we will need specific information regarding the surgery and implants used)
Compatible Objects or Devices
- surgical clips - time frame six weeks post-op
- staples - ideally removed
- vascular access ports
- intraventricular shunt
- HALO vest
- penile prosthesis (most are compatible, check with MRI suite)
- wire mesh
- any implanted orthopedic items (such as pins, rods, screws, nails, clips, plates, wires, etc)
- heart valve prosthesis (most are compatible, check with MRI suite) Although these items are compatible, they can cause severe distortions on the images in the area of the implant.
Objects to be Removed
- hearing aid
- orbital/eye prosthesis
- any type of implant held in place by a magnet
- artificial limb
- clothing containing metallic snaps or zippers
- hair pins
MRI Frequently Asked Questions
What is an MRI?
MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. It is a painless diagnostic procedure which allows physicians to see detailed images of the internal structures of your body without using X-rays. It uses a large magnet, radio waves and a computer to scan your body.
Why is MRI important?
This technology is important because MRI scans illustrate more clearly than ever before, the difference between healthy and diseased tissue, and can provide important information about the brain, spine, joints and internal organs. It can lead to early detection and treatment of disease and has no known side effects. Consequently, your Physician will be better able to determine the most appropriate treatment for you.
Are there any contraindications to having an MRI?
Yes. There are contraindications to having an MRI. Due to the strong magnetic field, some patients with certain types of surgically implanted devices or objects cannot be scanned. Your Physician will review your medical history and determine whether or not an MRI scan can be performed on you.
Can I have an MRI if I am pregnant?
It is considered wise to avoid scanning during the first trimester of pregnancy unless deemed absolutely necessary by the physician. While no adverse side effects have been proven from performing MRI during pregnancy, whenever possible the MRI should be postponed until the pregnancy is over.
How does an MRI scanner work?
Your body is composed of small particles called atoms. Hydrogen atoms, i.e. in water, make up 95% of the body. Normally, these hydrogen atoms within your body spin around at random. However, when you are placed inside a strong magnetic field, the hydrogen atoms line up and spin in the same direction as the magnetic field. When a radio wave is transmitted through the body, the hydrogen atoms give off a signal. That signal, with the aid of a computer, becomes the source of MRI information to produce two-dimensional images or three-dimensional volumes of a part of your body.
What causes the noise in the scanner?
The noise is due to the rising electrical current in the wires of the gradient magnets being opposed by the main magnetic field. The stronger the main field, the louder the gradient noise.
How long do I have to wait for an appointment?
The demand for an MRI is high and the waiting period for an MRI appointment ranges from two to three months for most exams. Urgent requests and emergencies are incorporated into the schedule as needed. Once we receive a request for an MRI and the Screening Form, we will schedule an exam date and contact your referring physician. The referring physician will notify you of your exam time and date.
What should I do to prepare for my exam?
Some MRI procedures require patient preparation before the examination. The MRI department will inform your doctor, who will in turn, inform you. If you are claustrophobic, please ask your doctor to prescribe medication for you, and bring it with you on the day of your appointment. We ask that you also bring with you, any previous examination (X-ray, CT scan, etc.) that is relevant to your MRI exam.
What does an MRI look like?
An MRI is a two-dimensional image or three-dimensional volume of a part of your body. MRI images are viewed on a computer monitor and can be printed on film (like an X-ray) or recorded on optical discs and compact discs. One MRI exam consists of a series of MRI scans. Each scan ranges in length from a few seconds to a few minutes and can contain any number of two-dimensional images.
Will it hurt?
No. You will not feel anything. A call button will be given to you before the exam is started. It will allow you to maintain two way communication with the Technologist at any time during the exam.
How safe is the MRI contrast dye? I had a reaction to the dye I was given it in CT. Can I still be injected with MRI dye?
MRI contrast agents are very safe. They are different from those used in X-rays, and are often used when X-ray contrast agents pose a risk to the individual.
Will I see contrast dye in my urine if I have an injection?
No. The contrast agent used in MRI, called Gadolinium, is a clear, colourless fluid, which is injected into a vein in your arm and is excreted by the kidneys through your urine.
What areas of the body can you scan?
Any part of the body can be scanned on the MRI scanner. The body part being scanned must be in the centre of the scanner and also near a piece of the scanner (called a coil) designed to pick up information from the body, and is usually shaped so that the body part will just fit into it. MRI machines come with many different coils designed for imaging different parts of the body: knees, shoulders, wrists, heads, necks, etc.
What is an MRA?
MRA stands for Magnetic Resonance Angiography, a special type of MRI that looks at blood vessels and blood flow in virtually any part of the body with or without injection of contrast. A major advantage of MRA is that it can be performed as a non-invasive procedure which has little risk of complications in comparison with conventional angiography or other related procedures. As a result, MR Angiography is increasing in demand.
What is the difference between MRI and CT?
Both MRI and CT make cross-sectional images (slices) of almost any area of the body using a sophisticated computer system. The major difference is that while an MRI uses a large magnet and radio waves to produce images, a CT scanner uses ionizing radiation. With the MRI studies, there is no exposure to ionizing radiation and there are no known side effects. The systems complement each other well as they both have their inherent strengths and weaknesses. CT, however, can only directly acquire transverse and coronal images, whereas MRI can directly acquire slices in any plane and is superior when it comes to soft tissue contrast.
Can you scan my whole body while I'm in there?
No. With the MRI scanner, we can image almost any part of the body; however, each scan is limited to a specific body part or area. It takes from 30 to 60 minutes to scan each area.
Why do I have to have my whole body in the scanner if you are only scanning my head?
The part of the scanner that takes the pictures is located in the centre of the scanner. Therefore, in order to do a scan of your head, most of your body must slide into the scanner for proper positioning. The same is true for most other studies of the spine and upper extremities.
Why do you need to know about metal implants in my head, if I'm having my back scanned?
Although, we focus on one specific area when we scan you, your whole body does go into the scanner. We need to know about metal anywhere in or on your body because the magnet is never turned off, and just by entering the scan room you come within the magnetic field. Certain metallic devices interfere with the scan, and their presence during the scan may cause injury to you. It is very important for us to know if you have a pacemaker or other implanted electrical device, a history of heart or brain surgery, cerebral aneurysm clips, shrapnel, or a history of getting metal fragments in your eyes. Please check our MRI safety information section for more details.
MRI Screening Form
You should complete the MRI Screening Form in advance of your appointment.